Interviewing Your Best -  Success Goes to the Prepared

There is no smoke or mirrors to interviewing well. Good preparation and good delivery pays off. I guess that makes it sound simple. Part of it is, part of it isn’t. Good preparation is just that, knowing how you want to present yourself and knowing what the interviewer expects. After developing that knowledge you can then assemble your own interviewing package to help you meet those expectations, at least from the perspective of content. Good delivery is also knowledge based, but it requires practice and discipline.

Let me explain. Good preparation is based on knowing yourself. Knowing yourself means you can talk about yourself in flattering ways without sounding boastful or immodest. It means you can clearly and concisely illustrate your fit with the job. It means having a good stump/elevator speech because, that will be your answer to the first question you’re asked – I promise. The first question will be, “tell me about yourself…” If you’ve read my postings before or visited other articles and writing on my web site you already know the critical components of your stump speech for interviewing: who I am, what I’ve done, what I want to do, and how I can help you. Nailing that in 90 to 120 words helps set the tone for the interview and positions you as a well-spoken, well-disciplined person.

The next question may be more job/position focused or may be about your resume. In preparation you want to do two things. First, how to say, “I’m great,” without literally saying, I’m great, can be best accomplished with a story. Your resume already lists your accomplishments most likely in bullet form, but those bullets don’t provide context, don’t convey the urgency, the importance, the challenges that led to your accomplishment. So, much like your stump speech, develop 90-120 word vignettes that illustrate your accomplishments. In story form, the bullet-point that says, “Developed and implemented quality measures resulting in a 23% reduction in infection rates…” can be expanded to say, “I was charged with leading a committee to address quality measures because it was believed that our infection rates were too high. In the course of evaluating new collection and measurement processes, I was surprised by the push back I received from so many of my colleagues. To counter this, I analyzed the data more fully and developed a presentation showing the extent of the problem, and proposing possible solutions. When my colleagues saw the how serious our situation was and also saw several viable avenues that could be followed, it was much easier for us to work together for a positive outcome.” 

In story form,  you’ve taken a solid accomplishment, developing a process to achieve a very positive result, but you’ve put it in much more, “I’m great,” expansive terms. You’ve shown that you can recognize conflict, that you can analyze alternatives to address conflict, that you can develop a convincing and compelling presentation, that you can see several sides to a problem, and that you can marshal a team to achieve a positive result… pretty great! 

You should have at least one story to explain or elaborate on each bullet point or key assertion in your resume. 

Second, you need more bullet points. I noted earlier, your interviewing package… well, for your interview you should have a portfolio with a legal pad and two pens, six copies of your resume, one copy of your resume on a flash drive that you can give to the interviewer, and one copy of your resume with crib notes to remind you of key words and phrases to use, and with expanded bullet points. Why more bullet points? What do you say when the interviewer states, “You have an impressive resume, and you have some very impressive accomplishments. What else have you done?”

At this point you can look like a deer in his headlights, you can wing it, or you can simply look at the next set of bullet points and say, “something else I’m particularly proud of is…” Which would you prefer to do? I usually recommend clients place this second set of bullet points in red so they’re clearly differentiated from those given to the interviewer. And, again, have a vignette practiced for each. If you can produce three extra bullet points to address each of your core competencies or skill areas, that’s perfect.

The next step in preparation is to match your skills and your accomplishments to the job. It’s most likely you have not done this job before. You may be asked, since you’ve been in practice your entire career, how do you feel about tackling “this responsibility?” Know the responsibilities, job duties and other requirements of the position and again, develop short vignettes that illustrate how your practice activities have prepared and exposed you to similar situations. Even when you aren’t sure your accomplishments perfectly dovetail to the job’s requirement, you can say, “I see that “responsibility” very similar to….,  and then add your vignette. 

These are the critical aspects of good preparation for presenting your skills and qualifications. Next time I’ll address the softer, but equally important, aspects of how you present yourself – your delivery.